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City files suit over water use

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Seeks damages in breach of contract case

By Martin Salazar

Roughly three years after one member of the City Council raised concerns about the legitimacy of some of the water taps in the Gene “Geno” Maes subdivision near Zeamway and Airport Road, the city has taken the matter to court.

Maes signed an agreement with the city in 1992 allowing him to hook up no more than five mobile homes to a single, two-inch tap off the MDF waterline. The meter was to be used to serve Maes’ mobile home and future rental spaces for a maximum of four additional mobile homes. But just 13 years later, there were eight properties being served by that tap, according to city records.

City Attorney Dave Romero has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Maes on behalf of the city. The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages, including costs and expenditures the city incurred in complying with the agreement and costs and expenditures in providing service to the additional homes in the subdivision that are using Maes’ water tap, in violation of his agreement with the city. The city is also seeking attorney fees.

Romero, who filed the lawsuit in state District Court in Las Vegas in May, declined to comment, saying the complaint speaks for itself. The Optic was unable to reach Maes for comment. There is no listing for Maes in the Las Vegas telephone directory, and Directory Assistance had no phone listing for a “Gene Maes” in Las Vegas.

In its lawsuit, the city contends that Maes violated his agreement with the city in a number of ways. It alleges that there are more than the allotted five mobile homes using the waterline tap, and it accuses Maes of selling water taps to individuals, something it says he had no right to do.

The original agreement with the city prohibits the use of water from Maes’ tap for agricultural or commercial use, yet some of the waterlines are being used for “illegal agricultural use,” the suit contends.

The city also contends that Maes was required to notify the city in the event that he decided to sell his interest in the property so that his interest in the agreement with the city could be assigned to the new property owner.
“Upon information and belief, the defendant has sold portions of the property to various individuals as well as illegally selling the water taps, without notice to the city,” the lawsuit alleges.

According to the lawsuit, the city has met with Maes multiple times in an effort to resolve the issue, but those attempts were unsuccessful.

“Defendant has breached the agreement due to a change in use of the water taps and ownership of the property, without written notice to the city,” the lawsuit alleges.

The city accuses Maes of acting “fraudulently, arbitrarily, or capriciously wherein he later sold or leased waterlines and taps for a total of five mobile homes.”

The city also states that Maes failed to pay the fee for the 2-inch water service and meter, in violation of a city ordinance.

“Defendant was to pay a fee per additional mobile home up to a maximum of four,” the suit alleges. “Defendant failed to be responsible in making payment of the monthly water bill to the plaintiff; and keep all amounts owing to the plaintiff current.”

Questions about the Gene Maes subdivision came to the forefront in the summer of 2011. That’s when city officials were pushing for an extension of a city water line to Airport Road to boost fire protection for the northeast part of the city, improve water quality and service the city’s Solid Waste Transfer Station.

At the time, City Councilor Tonita Gurule-Giron raised concerns about the project because Mayor Alfonso Ortiz’s family has ties to the subdivision that she argued would eventually benefit from the line extension.

The mayor’s daughter, Rulene Ortiz, bought land from Maes in 1997 and subsequently sold it to Paul Maez, her cousin and the mayor’s nephew.

Public records show that Maes signed a warranty deed for Rulene Ortiz on Feb. 21, 1997. The deed states that the property has “three water taps and access thereto.” Public records also show that the same property Maes conveyed to Rulene Ortiz was conveyed to Maes that same day by William H. Cunico and Wilma Faye Cunico. But the deed Maes received from the Cunicos doesn’t state anything about water taps.